Has Gary Ross Exited the Hunger Games Sequel Already?

Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games (2012) Movie ImageIt’s not official or anything, but apparently rumors of unhappiness between Gary Ross and Lionsgate about Ross wanting a bigger paycheck for the sequel (he was paid $3 million to write and direct the first movie, plus 5% backend profits) have resulted in this rumor that Ross has now left the sequel.

This comes off the heels of this morning’s news that “Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence won’t have any issues with doing both the sequel, “Catching Fire” and her “X-Men: First Class” sequel duties. “Catching Fire” is expected to shoot later this year, while the “X-Men” sequel will shoot early next year.

According to The Playlist, though, Ross actually left the sequel earlier this week, formally giving notice of his exit to Lionsgate and Summit. The latter studio, of course, is no stranger to directors ditching high-profile franchises — they famously booted “Twilight” director Catherine Hardwicke from the franchise after only one movie. (Hardwicke would later publicly mock the, ahem, “quality” of the series, perhaps indicating that it wasn’t her choice to leave.)

So why did Ross say adieu? Was it all about money? Apparently not (though that probably didn’t help), and was more a case of Ross wanting to do something different instead of spending another two years in the same genre. Which makes sense. Ross’ filmography will tell you that he really isn’t the kind of guy who likes to spend too much time on any one genre. Heck, at one point he even entertained the idea of directing a “Spider-Man” sequel. And now that he’s done a futuristic sci-fi actioner, maybe he’s not at all anxious to do it again. I can kinda respect that, to be perfectly honest with you.

Ross’ next movie will be something he’s written and, we’re told, would actually pay him more than what a “Catching Fire” sequel would have paid him. So I guess money has something to do with it after all…

In any case, if Ross has indeed exited the sequel, Lionsgate will need to find a director soon. “Catching Fire” is expected to shoot later this year for a November 2013 release. And as hot as star Jennifer Lawrence is nowadays, you don’t want to take the chance someone else might snap her up for another franchise or movie that she can’t turn down, thus throwing “Catching Fire’s” schedule out of whack.

Update: Or not.

Director Gary Ross in The Hunger Games (2012) Movie Image